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Women's Health


Choosing the pathway to dietary health
09 October 2004

DO you avoid carbohydrates, only eat organic or drink your tea with soya milk?

Dietitians Association of Australia spokeswoman Tania Ferraretto, who practices in South Australia, said research shows our eating habits have changed fundamentally.

We are consuming more kilojoules and have lost the art of cooking for ourselves. On top of that, we are turning to faddy diets for a quick health fix.

"Whereas 50 years ago, people were eating a lot of home-cooked meals now we're getting take aways and we're going through the drive-through or ordering pizza," she said.

"That has really changed the way people eat. That's also changed the quality of our diet.

We're time-poor compared to people in the past. We have higher disposable incomes and can afford to buy food out of the home more often.

"People are cooking less but also have fewer cooking skills."

Ms Ferraretto said we all also seemed to be influenced by food trends, promising a quick fix. The main one currently is the low-carbohydrate diet.

She said the problem with these fads, was no one knew their long-term effects.

"Over the past 50 years there has been an increase in confusing information," she said.

"People get to the point where they don't know what to believe. Twenty years ago, we were worrying about fat. We are now worrying about carbs, it's just a new spin on an old thing."

Australian Consumers Association food policy officer Clare Hughes has witnessed an explosion in the range of foods aimed at different trends.

"There's lots happening in product development but also manufacturers are responding to what happens in diet and nutrition areas," she said.

One company has launched a low-carbohydrate range of foods and many products now carry a logo showing their glycaemic index, or GI, rating.

Aside from weight loss, however, Ms Hughes said consumers were making choices to buy such products as organic food for a variety of reasons.

"Some people call them credence values coming into consumer choices," she said. "It's not just about taste and value."

The National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia said the organic market is worth around $200 to 250 million, with growth estimates of 20 to 25 per cent a year. Major supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths, carry organic ranges and the market is booming in South Australia.

Wilson's Organics,in Gouger St, city, started in the Central Market about eight years ago and has gone from strength to strength. "It's an ever increasing spiral it is a successful and dynamic industry," owner Angela Trevor said.

"There are more organic shops springing up. I think it's important for us to see the wave of change in retail. Everybody should be organic."

She claimed consumers were choosing organic because they wanted to know where the food they ate came from and how it had been produced. Flinders University Associate Professor in nutrition and dietetics Lynne Daniels has noticed trends in our eating habits from our passion for bottled water to our love affair with nutritional supplements.

Both, she said, were unnecessary as we had perfectly good water from our taps and, with some exceptions, supplements were not needed with a healthy diet. She felt the future trend for diet was not good.

"People are going to increasingly work long hours and have long commutes to work and be time poor," she said.

The resounding advice from the experts is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The only trend they recommend is a well-rounded and healthy diet with regular exercise.